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Maestro gagged by court

By Sopo Datishvili
Thursday, October 2
The appeal of the Maestro TV company against the Georgian National Communication Commission in the Tbilisi City Court has ended in the rejection of its suit.

On April 4 the GNCC made the decision not to give the channel the right to broadcast political programmes. Tbilisi City Court announced after its judgment that: “The studio didn’t wait for the decision of the court and undertook activity which is only allowed after the receipt of the relevant licence. On March 20, 2008 the court took special sanction over this and warned the Broadcaster.”

Public Defender Sozar Subari, in response to the decision, announced that he is concerned about the pressure applied to those who exercise freedom of speech in Georgia. “The Government doesn’t show common sense towards media companies that aren’t controlled by it”. Subari said, adding that “We think that the decision of the court is an indicator that the President’s declaration about a “new wave of democracy” in fact involves the ignoring of democratic values.” On September 30 the Public Defender established a new organisation for the protection of human rights in the country, and many of his recent pronouncements have been very critical of the Government.

Like the Ombudsman, independent journalist Ia Antadze recalls the phrase of Saakashvili about new democratic reforms and sees a big difference between words and reality. She did not have any illusion about the ultimate decision of the court: “I would have been very surprised if the court had given Maestro the right to broadcast new and controversial opinions in prime time. I don’t see any tendency towards such decisions in the country yet,” Antadze says.

The Leader of the Labour Party, Soso Shatberashvili, thinks that freedom of the speech has been under pressure ever since the Rose Revolution. “We have a form of dictatorship in this country. Even the USA cannot deny this,” he says.

The Director of Maestro, Mamuka Glonti, says that the court has imprisoned freedom of speech in the country with its final decision. He does not accept the judgment and has told The Messenger that he is planning to appeal to the European Court in the near future.

At present Maestro broadcasts on cable frequencies in Tbilisi, Telavi, Rustavi and Gori. Most of its programmes are of music and entertainment.